The Invention of Jesus

03/10/09 | Posted by MattPage

Film Review: The Invention of Lying
Jesus once said “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no” (Matt 5:17). It’s one of those sayings that, taken absolutely literally, no-one really follows to the letter, even if it does motivate many to be more truthful.

Nonetheless, Ricky Gervais’s new film, The Invention of Lying, examines what it would be like if we lived in a world where people spoke the truth, or at least their perception of it, at all times. Colleagues constantly highlight your failings, strangers express their disgust at your physical appearance and residential care for the elderly is called “A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People”.

image
 Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner ni The Invention of Lying

It’s a horrific snapshot of a world purged of any kind of untruth, although it’s actually the additional absence of tact and discretion which make that world as bad as it is.

But everything changes on the day one man discovers that he can lie. The man is Mark Bellington (Gervais), a ‘snub-nosed fatty’ who has just lost his job and the girl of his dreams (Jennifer Garner). Eventually, Mark finds himself telling his dying mother that there is a wonderful, mansion-filled, afterlife awaiting her. His mum dies in peace; his words spread like wildfire.

And so it is that Mark finds himself as the sole prophet for the previously unheard of “Man in the Sky”. It is he, Mark explains, that causes everything good but also everything bad. Yet those that avoid doing more than 3 really bad things will receive a glorious mansion when they die. As if to underline his special status, we see a bearded, long-haired, Mark donning a white sheet and sandals to answer the door.

Fans of Gervais’s previous work will be slightly disappointed. This falls well short of the high standards of The Office or Extras, though it’s perhaps on a par with Ghost Town. The jokes in the film are essentially just variations on two basic gags. One, it can be funny when people are brutally honest, and two, that God isn’t real. The first group lasts well for while, though eventually becomes a little dull, but the second has caused a fair amount of controversy.

But the film is not nearly as blasphemous as some have made out. It’s clear, after all, that the story is taking place in another world. And whilst the film’s world has no belief in an afterlife, there are, nevertheless, signs of religious activity (street preachers and church buildings for example). Obviously, the fact that God is unknown in a world without lying does imply that he doesn’t exist, but this message rarely feels heavy handed.

What’s particularly noticeable, though, is the difficulty that Mark has inventing a credible basis of faith. When he mentions that doing bad might send you to hell, he has to spend two hours clarifying what he means. It quickly dawns on him that using rules to judge who is OK is harder than it seems.

By contrast, Jesus - the ultimate spokesperson for the man in the sky - demonstrated God’s love for us, not by writing rules on pizza boxes, but by letting humanity do its worst to him, and still coming back to offer us forgiveness from everything we do wrong, no matter how big or small. It’s easy to call such hope a lie, but with such a bleak alternative what can be the harm in giving it a try?

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This movie set out to make all of YOU’s seen as what they really are—preachers; men who have devoted their life to spreading the lies and turning positivity of life into some sort of marketing tool.

You’re giving meaning to a thing that constantly has its inhabitants wondering, what is all this? And it’s disgusting that a group of men got together to create AN ANSWER for that question. And you, the followers, do no help to those of us who try to teach truth.

#1. By Ross on October 18, 2009

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